A Twist Of Fate
August, 2009 Entries
"What do you mean you don't have ice? You mean I have to drink this coffee hot?"
- Clerks

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(08/29/09 - 10:18 PM)
My Aunt Linda called me today to see how I was doing, which I thought was nice. My Dad and Step-mother also came over this morning to mow my lawn for me (they insisted) which I thought was pretty keen as well.

I got a hankering tonight for cereal, of all things, and I found a bag of granola/cereal stuff in the pantry. When I ate it, I could tell that it had been around for a little while, because it just tasted old. When I finished, I checked the bag. It read:

'Best Before 11Sept05'


(08/28/09 - 7:53 PM)
I arrived home from the hospital two days ago just a little before 1:00 PM. But let me take a few steps back...

At about 1:26 in the morning on Tuesday, I woke up with a start. My body was trying to tell me something. Oh yes: I was in alot of pain.

I got up because I figured I probably just needed to use the bathroom. When I got there, and nothing happened, I got concerned. Then the pain got worse and it dawned on me that this was not a gastro-intestinal issue: This was something far more interesting. As I returned to bed, my wife asked me if everything were all right. For once in my life, I answered her honestly. No, everything was not all right.

The only way for me to be comfortable was to get in the fetal position on my side for 10 minutes at a time. Then I had to flip over, but it wasn't nearly as effective on my left side as on my right. The pain kept coming in sharp waves, as the other pain just kept throbbing in a rainbow over my belly button and below my costals.

It hurt pretty bad.

Then, my body temperature went haywire. It took my wife three blankets and 30 minutes for me to even feel warm again. After this, I immediately started sweating like (in the words of my Father) a 'Lebanese Fighter Pilot.' This was clearly not good, but I didn't want to worry my wife. Fortunately for me, she's too smart for my bad acting, and she spirited off to get online.

Ten minutes later, she came back with a diagnosis (a correct one, I would later find out) - gallstones.

This was on my list of guesses, but her methodical deductions had pretty much nailed it down for me. How cool is this woman?

So, I tried to sleep, and at about 6:00 AM, the body parts had called a truce. I got a small amount of sleep, and then got up. I seriously debated taking the day off, as I was exhausted and still in pain. But the sharp pains has gone, and all I had now was the throbbing arc across my belly. I showered and dressed as gingerly as possible, but when I cinched up my belt I saw stars. Something in my lower right abdomen was not happy about being pressed upon.

I finally made it into work. As I entered the office, my Assistant and Expediting Manager both took one look at me and asked, "What's your deal?"

I explained the situation to them, and my Assistant began regaling me with horror stories about people she had known who let it go too long and it got infected, and yadda-yadda-yadda.

It scared the crap out of me. So, I figured that my wife is the smart one and this just clinched it. I made a phone call to my General Practioners' office, and asked if they had anything open that day. I was told that he had just had a 1:30 cancellation, and that I could have that. I took it, but asked if there were any way that he could see me sooner. She asked what I had, and I explained my situation to her. She told me she would ask the Doctor, but he was really busy and 1:30 would probably be it.

Twenty minutes later she was back on the phone, and telling me to come in right then. This was when I really began to realize that this might not end with an antibiotic and a handshake.

I went to the Doctor, and he did indeed see me right away. One thing I like and appreciate about my Doctor: he's punctual to a fault.

He asked me all the necessary questions, then had me lie down. He started pushing on my stomach and eventually hit a sore spot as I grimaced and he seemed satisfied. "It appears as though it is your gallbladder or your liver," he said. "I'll need to get you into pathology right away, and I'll have my nurse call and get you an immediate ultrasound at the hospital."

I just wanted to ask, "Hey! How about that antibiotic and that handshake? Couldn't we just do that, and call it all good?"

I appreciated what he was doing - I really did. Within two minutes, his nurse had an ultrasound scheduled for me within the hour, and I went down to pathology and was admitted in front of everyone else who was already there.

This did not bode well.

After having blood drawn, I stopped home to change into something more presentable on my way to the hospital. If things kept going the way they were now, I had a suspicion that I might want something more comfortable - and more presentable - during further testing and admissions.

After changing, I drove up to the hospital, and found my ultrasound technician waiting for me (again, not a good sign). She took me back, and I made all of the obligatory jokes about finding out if it was a boy or a girl, etc. She, in turn, asked that if it was a girl that I consider naming it Kathy, after her. I told her I'd think about it.

I laid down, and she got started. The goopy jelly stuff wasn't too unpleasant, and it was neat seeing all of my organs on the screen above my head. For forty-five minutes she did what I can only assume is the equivalent of a fashion magazine photo shoot of my interior organs, all the while pushing the probe in between my individual ribs (the ultrasound, I learned, cannot penetrate bone, so they have to do this from all angles in order for the machine to eventually create a three-dimensional model.)

In response to her questions, I explained that there was still a halo of pain beneath my costals, but that the majority of the sharper pain was in my pelvic region. She showed me my gall bladder on the screen, and explained how the ducts in it were most likely clogged if it was a stone.

I asked if that were the biliary ducts, and she stopped, looked at me, and asked me if I worked in the medical field.

I told her no, I just read alot. Why?

"Because," she responded, "Since you've gotten here, you've spoken like a doctor. You seem to know the mechanics and terminology, and that's extremely unusual."

See? Watching television and reading can be fun AND educational, kids.

I was finally done, but she told me not to leave until she made a phone call. I returned to the now empty (and quiet) waiting room, and closed my eyes for a small respite. Five minutes later, she was trying to wake me gently. She said that my General Practitioner wanted to keep me here, and that she would arrange for an x-ray technician to read my results immediately upon his return from lunch in twenty minutes.

I got worried even more, and told her that at this point I had nowhere more important to be.

Two minutes later she was back, and asked me to come with her. She had reviewed the pictures from the ultrasound, and was unhappy with a few of them. She wanted to take a whole new set of that organ, with a different machine.

I got my second ultrasound of the day (only twenty minutes this time), and then returned to the waiting room once more.

I once again attempted to doze off, but a nonogenarian woman with poor hearing decided that since I was the only other person within her sightlines she would talk to me. Even though I had earphones in, and had my eyes closed. She tried to make an argument for the universal health plan - which I explained to her sheepishly I knew nothing about (I've been extremely lax in following antything newsworthy this year.) I did add that it had been done before, but that it had faltered or failed completely in countries like Canada and France.

Then she let me know that she thought they had done it in Canada, and it had succeeded well. I don't know that she heard a thing that I said, honestly. She was momentarily distracted by a passing surgeon, and I used this opportunity to go back into hibernation mode.

Minutes later, the ultrasound technician returned and sat down next to me. It's never good when they sit down. Trust me on this one. And her face was not bespeaking fun topics on any level.

"Well," she said softly, "You have a gall stone. It's extremely large, and your gallbladder is inflammed and infected. The x-ray technician has spoken with your doctor, and you have an appointment with a surgeon in thirty minutes at the facility across the street."

It was at about this point that I realized that I probably was not going home. I thanked her, and left the building to move on to my next appointment.

I waited until my turn came, and my Surgeon came in. She was a middle-aged woman who was not pretty in a traditional sense, but had a stark look to her that was not altogether unpleasant. For whatever reason, all I could think was that here was a woman who was married to her job, and she didn't try to impress anyone. This worked, because her bearing was such that she somehow commanded respect. I liked her immediately.

She sat down, did my intake interview, and checked my lower abdomen. Then she left the room. When she returned, we sat down (again with the sitting down) and she said that I had a gallstone that was 2.33cm in diameter.

I said, without thinking, "That's 23.3mm, or about 15/16 of an inch. Wow, that seems big."

My conversion of numbers threw her for a blink, but then she said that yes, it was pretty big - one of the larger ones she had ever seen. And that it had apparently been in there for quite some time. This got me to thinking about my visit to the Doctor about 6-8 weeks ago. I described my visit, and she explained the situation further. As I put it all together, I had been suffering the effects of this monster fun-ball in my gut since before last Christmas, and more likely the subtle effects of it or its precursor for some time longer still.

At least some things made some sense with this revelation. It put my mind at ease to know that I wasn't crazy for visiting the doctor earlier in the year.

"So, what do we do?" I asked, already knowing - and dreading - the answer.

"Well, we're going to need to operate, to take out the stone and also the gall bladder. With Kidney stones, we can use a laser to obliterate them, or sometimes use medication to clear them up. Unfortunately, due to the size of yours, and the inflammation, we have no option but to take the whole gall bladder out. I'll get you scheduled for about 8-9PM tonight, so if we get you admitted now, we can give you some IV antibiotics to clear up the infection prior to the operation."

"We have to do it that soon? Wow." I said. I was still a little surprised to have heard it said out loud. That just made it real.

"Well, yes," she said, "Unless you want to keep experiencing that sort of pain over and over again until it bursts or something."

Well played, logical Doctor. >SIGH<

So, I went out to my car with my admission papers in hand. I called the office, and told them I would be out for the next seven days for sure, and possibly a week longer beyond that, dependant upon how things went. This was due primarily to the fact that the stone was so large, she was unsure of whether she would be able to remove it laparoscopically (with the four little robot arm thingees) or whether she would have to do a full-blown incision due to its size. If she had to do the latter, the time for hospitalization was 3 days, versus one.

I called my worried wife, and explained the situation to her. I then thanked her for her efforts and presence of mind. I might have even told her how great she was. I said alot of stuff.

I went across the street to the hospital once more, and got to meet the second of two registration clerks (I met the first one on my first visit some two hous ago). I was given a handy little bracelet that told me who I was, and an escort was called for me to take me through the labyrinthine confines of the hospital to what would be my home away from home for the next 24 hours or so.

The escort was a light-blond septaugenarian, who began speaking almost a soon as we began walking. She walked right by the elevator hall, only to double back to the elevators when she confusedly realized her mistake. Odd, I thought, if she's the guide/escort.

I tried to respond to her conversation, but it became clear that her perseverance in getting me to my room was short-circuiting her minds' ability to hold a conversation. The conversation went pretty much like this the whole way up:

"So, you're checking in, eh? Well, we hope you like it here."

"I just ate a squirrel."

"Well, tract-farming is a concern again."

That gives you an idea. I simply gave up, and resorted to a lot of affirmative responses that didn't really convey anything. We walked down a long hall on the third floor. As we walked, a squat nurse began tracking our movements, until we reached her.

"Hello," she said, "That wouldn't be Mr. Alberts, would it?"

The escort affirmed that yep - it sure was.

"I think his room is all the way back at the end of the hall. You missed it when you came up this way."

"I did? That's odd," came my escorts' response.

The nurse - honest to God - went on to explain to the escort how the room numbering configuration worked as she now guided us to my room. I don't know who this woman was, but she was definately on her toes, and had saved me from ending up bedding down behind a furnace or some such thing in a part of the hospital I was never meant to see. I just wanted to hug her right about then.

So, I entered my room. Sitting in a chair, visiting my new roomate was a guy. We looked at each other, pointed, and laughed. Let me back up for a second.

When I had visited my general practitioner at 9:00 AM, this guy was in the waiting room. Apparently, he was driving my new roomate (who I later found out was his uncle) to the doctor. When I got down to pathology, I ran into him again. Not so odd, really.

But running into him a third time, in a huge hospital, in the same room as me, was just bizarre. We spoke briefly about the coincidence, as an RN entered the room.

"Do you two know each other?"

"Now exactly," I said, and then went on to explain the coincidence.

The RN was soon followed by a squad of nurses in varying degrees of rank: RN, LPN, CNA, and on and on. I was changed, poked, prodded, taped, bedded, questioned, interrogated, questioned some more. I was given my first IV line in my left hand (The nurse asked if I had ever had one, and when I said no, she said that it hurt a little more than drawing blood or getting a shot - and she was dead on on that one.)

When all of this was done, and all the other nurses had left, the lead RN said, "You don't remember me, do you?"

As soon as she said this, I did. She was the now ex-wife of one of my former employees. This guy had been a real jerk to her, and I remembered her as being a good egg.

"I'm sorry I didn't recognize you right away. As soon as you said something I did, though."

"That's alright," she replied, "I kind of hoped that you wouldn't, so you wouldn't feel awkward about changing and all the invasive questions. That's why I waited to say something."

We talked for another minute, and I watched her leave. I was now in the room alone with a pain-ridden co-patient, and his nephew from the days' travels in Medicalia.

As I lay there, the pain throbbed in my abdomen. Then, Fred the Respiratory Therapist came in, gave me an EKG, and then gave me what I from then on referred to as my 'Happy Meal Toy' (a post-surgical breathing apparatus designed to clear out the lungs and prevent pneumonia from setting in) after showing me how to use it. Fred mentioned that this was important, as I would be intubated (information I could have done without knowing) and that in a hospital, the strains of pneumococcus bacterium were far more virulent and liked to consider an intubated patient as free housing. Fred was ex-military, and seemed to be a good guy. He told me some inane stories (get better stories though, Fred) and then left my company.

Another nurse came in, added 'Lactose Rings' (or something like that) and antibiotics to my IV unit, and asked if I would like a painkiller.

Definately! Why not?

The first one was Toradol. Not bad, but not good either. It's great with inflammation - I can attest to this - but for a painkiller, it's marginal when compared to what else is available. As the throbbing intensified they offered me Dilaudid. This was the money med. This stuff I felt run through my body - literally - in about eight seconds. In that short span of time, I went from hurty to floating on a pain-free cloud. It's that good.

So, I'd like to thank the good people who manufacture this stuff - you made my hospital stay not only tolerable, but pleasant. Except for the heat flashes and minor itching - those I could have done without. (During my stay, I also sampled Percocet & Demerol - also good in their own right, but nothing topped the Dilaudid.)

I laid in my hospital bed in nothing but my tighty-whities and a lovely housecoat, sans reverse. There were ties, snaps and straps on the thing to beat the band, and I began to accept the fact that all of my shame and dignity were pretty much on vacation for the duration of my stay. Once I resolved myself to this, I just got comfortable.

I tried to sleep, but for as tired as I was - both mentally and physically - sleep would not come. I watched the clock for two solid hours, as my roomates' family came in to visit. I was called upon from time to time to comment upon the coincidental story of our thrice meeting throughout the day by my roomates' nephew as new guests arrived to visit his uncle. His family got a good laugh out of it, and it proved to be a good ice breaker. Within the half-hour, I was an honorary family member (white or not) and no one pretended as though I weren't there. I was now a momentary part of their lives, which made me more at ease for whatever reason.

My roomate moaned and groaned (which he would do up until the time I left). As I put it together, he had hurt his back at work and the pain just would not stop. It was in his lower back, and no matter what he did, he could not get comfortable. Within the hour, he had sampled many of the painkillers that I had, and was ultimately given Dilaudid as well. The difference being that it quelled my pain. But not his. It seemed to numb it, but it was clearly still there. I couldn't even imagine how much he hurt, because this was good stuff.

Doctors, nurses, and specialists came in revolving-door-style to visit him. A massive battery of tests were ordered by the physician in charge of his case (it had to be bad - he actually got a doctor, while I had an RN.) Every twenty minutes or so, someone new showed up to draw blood. His family was annoyed by this, until it was explained to them that each department required their own blood. He made a joke about not having much left to give, and we all had an obligatory laugh.

As the hour wore on, I learned that his left leg was nearly dead weight, and that he had lost 27 pounds in the last two weeks. Not good.

At about 4:20, my Mom showed up. It took me a moment to put the time and her arrival together, and I then proceeded to scold her for leaving work to come and see me. I told her that I wasn't going anywhere, and that I was fine but she insisted that she had to be there.

My Mom is pretty keen.

She had brought me some snacks and some beverages, but I soon learned that I was on the 'Do Not Feed The Bears' list. This was exemplified by the yellow sign that was placed on my wall shortly after my Mothers' arrival that had three letters on it - 'NOP'. I had no idea what this meant, but I couldn't help but think that they could just add one letter (that being 'e') and the word 'NOPE' would give a pretty good idea of how they felt about me receiving any form of sustainance that did not arrive in a hanging bag.

My roomate was brought a dinner tray at five, and he began to ravage it. He clearly needed to eat, and his family encouraged him to do so. At 5:07, a nurse arrived and took the tray away, saying that his Doctor had just requested that he not eat from here on out. This made the family a little upset, as it seemed like teasing an Ethiopian with a cheeseburger. Eventually, they all seemed to silently understand that someone, somewhere, had received a result on one of his tests that would require a further test. As the evening wore on, I don't think anyone wasn't thinking what the next nurse arriving to speak with him mentioned.

"We need to do some tests in the near-term so the food became a factor. Now, I don't want to scare you, but we need to check a few things, and some of the tests are for cancer."

I know I was thinking it, and by the looks on the faces of his family, they were all at least considering it. The only one who seemed surprised was Nathan (that was his name - his birthday is 01/07/53, so you can do the math and figure out that he wasn't too old. I only know this because each time a controlled substance was issued to either of us, our bracelet bar code was scanned and we had to give our full name, birthdate, and pain level before the drugs were administered. We jokingly mentioned that we would now have to send one another birthday cards.)

So, he was wheeled out of the room within the half-hour and returned some time later looking more exhausted and gaunt than when he left, which was no small feat in his frail condition. He looked like a slip of a man, clinging to a life that he no longer cared to live. It was heart breaking.

After five, my wife arrived. She had attempted to leave work, but had been hit with a budget for a client that she was supposed to have had in her hands weeks ago. Instead, her boss gave it to her at 4:20 and told her he had to have it the next morning. He didn't know that I was in the hospital, and I re-assured Wanda that I was fine, Mom was here, and I wasn't going anywhere. She worked on it until she had to leave, but brought it with her to work on while I was in surgery.

It was nice to see her, but I was so exhausted and drugged that I only remember fighting with them about wasting their time here doing nothing with me. When they both indicated that they were not only not leaving, but spending the night as well, I began to attempt to change their minds. I felt awful. I felt bad for letting my co-workers down. I felt bad because my lawn needed to be mowed, and I could not do it now. I felt bad because I had inconvenienced my wife and my Mother. I felt bad because this was all so surreal and stupid and, worst of all, would be exceedingly expensive. I felt bad because I felt helpless. I am used to being in control, and I was anything but in this instance.

At seven o'clock, the nurses changed shifts. I said goodbye to my former co-workers ex-wife, and wished her luck in finding a guy who would not only appreciate her, but treat her as she deserved. I think I made her sad.

I got to meet my new cadre of RN's, LPN's and CNA's. My new CNA was the only one I didn't like immediately (more on that later). I was told by my peppy new RN that my surgery was scheduled for 8:00 that evening, and that I could just relax until then. My pain medications were renewed, as well as my IV bags. A second round of antibiotics was added, and my roomate continued to lose blood with each new visit.

The evening set on early. It looked as though it might rain, and my odd rooftop view wasn't telling me much to contradict this. My mom and wife sat quietly, and I eventually convinced them to play a game or watch something (collectively, my wife and I had three video iPods chock full of fun stuff on hand) and eventually they agreed.

You might think that they would watch television, but the odd thing about this room was that, unlike other random hospital rooms I had been in in my short stay on this planet, it had individual, tiny 8" televisions on a manipulatable arm at one side of the bed. This held no real interest for me, as my brain was barely functioning and my neighbor was trying to rest.

At 7:45, my RN showed up to talk to me about the surgery, to pick up the forms that she had me fill out for the anesthesiologist earlier, and to give me a small pill called a mend to prevent vomiting after the surgery. Then she said that they would be coming for me within minutes.

Through the haze of drugs and sleep deprivation, I steeled myself for another life first - surgery. Having skydived for the first time just a month or so earlier, I reflected that this was a year of firsts including the addition of our houseguest. What a weird year.

A frantic nurse entered my room, holding a piece of paper. My RN attempted to say, "Are they ready, then?" but was spoken over by the new arrival.

"He's been bumped. We have a surgery with complications that's taking longer than expected. It'll be 9:00-9:30 before they have the room cleaned and ready."

Trepidation fleeted across my RN's face, but she remained calm. "Well, I just gave him the mend, and I can't give him another. When did you find out about this?"

The new nurse mentioned that she had run up as soon as she had been told - mere minutes ago.

My nurse had a few more questions, but seemed satisfied with the answers she received, and softened. She never lost her cool nor her bedside demeanor. "The mend should work over that period of time, even so," she said to me in answer to the question that I was indeed about to ask. "We'll keep you posted. If you need anything, just let me know."

Then, a code was called and everyone hauled ass to visit whoever was in room 3404. I found out the next morning from one of my roomates' family members (he was having a CT scan, and was due back in about ten minuites, so we were conversing idly) that a gang member had been brought in the evening before. Someone had tried very hard to kill him via physical violence and bullets, but hadn't quite succeeded. There had been five gang-laden vehicles observed in the parking lot, so the officer who came in with the patient had called in backup to clear the lot. Then he had been posted outside the door for the remainder, or until he was relieved. This young man was the individual who was in 3404, and who had very nearly died as my RN was speaking to me.

I made small talk with my mom and wife, slipping in and out for seconds at a time into what I cannot really quantify as sleep. I was just running far below empty, and would have killed someone for some peaceful sleep.

A little after nine, they came for me. A stout little nurse brought a wheelie-bed, and a group of nurses got me transferred to my ride.

I was wheeled down the much cooler halls (my room felt like a sauna, for whatever reason, but I remember it being blissfully comfortable out in the halls) and had my first experience seeing the ceiling move above me, while an unseen pentegenerian moved me along. The elevator ride in the prone position was mildly more interesting than a vertical one - but only mildly.

I was brought into a restricted area, but they let my wife and Mom in this far. I was in a large, two-sided room. The side I was in was the 'incoming' side of surgery, and through the glass wall, I could see what I was later informed was the 'outgoing' side. Within moments, I met the nurse who would be assisting on my surgery. She was very tired. I asked how she was doing, and she mentioned that she had been there since 6:00 am, and had offered to stay on so a co-worker could go home and get some sleep. She mentioned also that she had to be back at work at 6:00 am the next morning, and that they had just received a compound fracture patient who had a bone sticking straight out the skin near his/her ankle that she would be held over to assist on.

As we got to talking, she mentioned that she was frustrated that they had called her co-worker back in to work, so all her efforts to do something nice for her friend had come to nought. She wasn't complaining, she just seemed to warm to me.

She left, and a young Hindu-type came in. He mumbled an incomprehensible name (the nurses later told me that they just called him "Dr. Moe") and introduced himself as the Anesthesiologist. He inquired about my weight, my allergies, and everything else that everyone else had inquired about all day. At least he was doing his job correctly, so I didn't blame him in the least.

He then left, and a few minutes later the nurse returned. She let me know that the Surgeon was running behind, and that I would be here another fifteen minutes or so.

Some 20 minutes later, the Surgeon arrived. She met my family, and got down to business. Her questions were unexpected, but I was fortunate enough to have paid attention during my day in Medical-Land.

"What procedure are you having done?"

"Cholesystectomy", I replied without stuttering.

"How will this be done?"

"Laparoscopilcally, unless complications arise. Then it will be done invasively."

She went on to ask me a string of more rote questions, and then disappeared for a moment. I looked over at my Mom, and she seemed a bit taken aback.

"How in the heck did you remember that?"

I shrugged, and mentioned that I had just paid attention during the day. I figured they must have to ask these questions to guarantee they do not give a vasectomy to a breast implant patient. I even remember making a joke to the nurse about the different procedures that they could potentially give me if I got these questions wrong.

A few minutes later, I bid farewell to my family, and was wheeled into an operating room. It was not at all what I expected but, to be fair, I didn't know what to expect. I asked how many individuals would be in on this fun filled event, and was told that there would be five in all, excluding me.

I was laid on a table on warm blankets. Then warm blankets were placed over me (nice, by the way). Arm boards were added to the operating table, and more blankets came. There was an absolute flurry of activity around me, each person doing their job with precision. It was like a well-orchestrated dance.

The Anesthesiologist appeared over my right shoulder, and placed a mask over my face.

"Okay," said Dr. Moe, "We're going to start with some oxygen and then..."


And then I was coming to with a start. Where in the hell was I? Holy shit, my stomach hurt. I heard a movement to my right, and there was the matronly nurse who had wheeled me into this tunnel-o-fun.

"You're awake," she said, matter of factly, "Good. How do you feel?"

Good question. How did I feel?

I remember responding, but I have no idea what I said. In hindsight, I was pretty whacked out on something (a double dose of Demerol, I later learned).

After about twenty minutes (or it could have been hours for all I knew) she took me back to my room. I don't really remember much about the trip, but I do remember that my head was fuzzy and that with every waking moment the pain was intensifying.

I was returned to my room, and the clock read 11:45. Wow, I had been out. My throat was a bit dry and scratchy, most likely from the intubation. But it was not nearly as bad as I thought it might have been.

I was left alone in my stupor, wondering if everyone had forgotten about me. Within about ten minutes my body was screaming for my attention to let me know that - hey! it was in pain!

Another five minutes passed, and then there was my RN, chipper as ever. She spoke with me, and all I remember was telling her that I hurt, how much I hurt, and I then remembered with difficulty who I was and when I was born. She whacked me up with a big dose of Dilaudid and that seemed to help a great deal in a very short time.

I laid there for another few minutes. I remembered asking her where my family was, but to tell the truth, I don't remember much else.

A short while later, my Mom and wife appeared. It was now about 15-20 minutes after midnight (I think). I remember that they hung out for a while before retiring to the waiting room to get some sleep. I do recall fighting with them some more to go home and sleep in a real bed, but neither one was having any of it.

I was so tired that I couldn't sleep. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either.

My poor roomate was moaning, and I soon realized that I was as well. When had that started?

After about five minutes of this, my sense of humor apparently had re-booted.

"You know," I said. "To someone outside this room, it might seem like we're shooting a porno in here with all the moaning."

He laughed, which made me feel better. He seemed to enjoy my humor, which is good because it usually doesn't stop and can at times be construed as offensive to the wrong crowd.

As the evening wore on, I noted that it was now after 2:00 AM. He turned on his television, and turned it down low.

"Look," I said, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm not going to be able to sleep, so turn it up as loud as you like."

He did.

As the hours passed, I received a visit from my RN on the hour, and alternating CNA's on the half-hours. They gave me drugs, made me move, got me to pee (which hurt like hell and took forever the first time, by the way. I realized that I had had a catheter at this point, and can honestly say I could do without that feeling for the remainder of my days.)

One CNA (the one I didn't like right off, you might remember me mentioning above) came in, checked me out: temperature, blood pressure, cognizance. Then she did something odd. She picked up my urinal from the floor. I had placed it there intentionally, and I told her so.

"We'll just put this up here on your beddy-bye so you can reach it." With this, she hung it within a foot of my head on the bed rail. The lid popped open, and I was immediately assaulted with the smell of my own urine.

She then went around to the other side of my bed, and swung the television down off the wall, articulating it such a manner that it was right in front of my face if I turned to my right. I explained to her that I would not want it, so she need not do that.

She ignored me. For whatever reason, I was getting upset. And this made me more aware. She proceeded to move things around on my nightstand (all hospital items) and then placed my tray-table thing at my bedside. I explained to her that I had placed it where it was, as she engaged the release to move it up higher. She then placed it across my chest at an odd angle as I insisted that I didn't need it.

In her own little world, she quietly bid me goodbye, and began exiting the room. I didn't have the energy to fight anymore, and was simply waiting for her to leave before I fixed all the stuff she messed up (I'm SUPER OCD when it comes to things like this.) I should also mention that I had my iPod with me, and had my earphones in the whole time we were 'conversing'.

Then as she was half-way to the door, I heard her mumble something under her breath. She went back to the nightstand, and opened the top drawer. I had noted earlier that the top drawer contained a restraint belt, some facial tissues, a small refuse bag, a bible and some other hospital-y odds and ends. She dug around for less than a second, and then proceeded to open the second drawer. This drawer was empty upon my arrival, and now held only my clothing. I asked what she was looking for, as I mentioned that that drawer just had my clothing in it. Surprisingly I didn't get an answer. She stuck her hand in among my clothing once on each side, closed the drawer, and walked out.

It took me about a minute after she left to put it all together: This woman had intended to rob me.

I don't say this lightly, but it makes sense. She was seeing how cognizant I was after surgery and while on high doses of narcotics. She was moving things to distract me, and had moved everything available to her on the side of the bed with the nightstand to block my view of her subsequent actions. There was nothing in the top drawer that would have held any use for her, and she had to have known that the second drawers were empty as a courtesy to patients. So why even look there? Coupled with the fact that she seemed to be looking for something, but would say nothing more than mumbled nonsense and I was certain.

Here's what I think would have happened, had my Mother not insisted that my wife take everything with her: She would have seen something she liked or wanted. She either would have taken it then, or checked in on me at shorter intervals in an attempt to find me sleeping with earphones in. Hopefully, I would not move the interfering items she had put in place (nonsensically, until you consider this motive) so that if I did wake up, I would have a hard time discerning what she was doing. In fact, the moment she left, I hauled my pained ass out of bed and moved it all back to where it was.

I look forward to reporting her to the surgeon when I see her on Tuesday, and I hope that this leads to some justice for those poor souls who weren't so lucky.

I got the alternating CNA for the next visit, and she was asking about the severe thunderstorm we had had that evening. I told her I didn't know anything about that, and she mentioned that I had a window. I asked what time it happened, and it co-incided with my procedure. I let her know that I was dead to the world for precisely that frame of time, and she seemed to understand my ignorance of the event more clearly.

My wife told me the next morning that it had been a strong storm, and that at one point the lights in the hospital had flickered, making her somewhat nervous for me.

I don't remember the night passing as fast as it did, but I didn't sleep a wink. At 6:20, my Mom and wife re-appeared looking haggard and sleepless. My wife had brought me a bag of Fritos as a joke, because the night prior I had made a comment that I had not been hungry until I was told that I could not eat (I had had a 90 calorie granola bar and two sips of coffee at 8:20 that morning, which was my entire sustainence for the day), at which point my body decided that Fritos and Totinos Pizza Rolls - two things I never eat - sounded amazing.

Weird, huh?

At seven, the new RN came on, and my two CNA's - the attempted thief, and the indifferent mouth breather - went off shift. These were the only two individuals who were not stellar during my stay. I was turned over to a new, matronly fireplug of a nurse by RN peppy, who looked like she needed a hot bath and a good days' sleep.

I was told that my paperwork for dismissal was in the works, and that once the Surgeon made the rounds, they could finish it up and - if she gave the green light - I could leave.

At about 11:00, my Dad and step-mother arrived to check in on me. They brought me a card, and offered to mow my lawn for me. I asked my Dad if he and she could see their way clear to getting my car home for me. They live two minutes from me, and it was on their way. My step-mother seemed hesitant, as she didn't know the area, but my Father convinced her. This was a load off of Wanda's mind, as she was concerned about this facet of my departure.

They didn't stay too long, as the Surgeon showed up shortly after they did. She gave me the once over, I told her she did good work, and that was that.

I called my wife, and told the RN that I would be ready to leave a little before noon. She told me she would have the paperwork ready, and I rested until my wife came.

Eventually, I got changed and got all my hardware unhooked (I kept joking that I felt like the 600 dollar man with all the mechanical extras and appendages). As we were waiting for my wheelchair escort, I bid my roomate farewell.

"Well," I said, "I don't know you. I'll probably never see you again, but I wish you all the best. I hope they figure out what's wrong with you, and I'll keep you in my prayers."

He nodded his goodbye, and went back to eating. He had been on oxygen since the night before, as he was having a great deal of difficulty breathing.

As I turned to my wife, his Doctor walked in, sat down next to him, and asked if it was alright if we were there or if he would like us to leave. He said it was fine, so the doctor began.

"Well Nathan, we have problems. You haven't injured your back, as you suspected. We've done the tests, and you have fully metastasized prostate cancer that has gotten into your spine and created sclerotic lesions. This is what is causing your back pain."

I got the impression that the only word that meant anything to him was 'cancer'.

My wife and I knew what he was saying in laymens terms was, "Your prostate had cancer, and it went full blown. Then it started to move up your spine, got hard, and created spots that are pressing on your nerves."

My wife and I both looked at each other as he went on, "You'll need a blood transfusion this afternoon, as it has affected your blood causing hypoxia, which is why you can't breathe properly. We're going to start chemotherapy this afternoon as well, and develop a plan of attack to fight this thing, but it's pretty far along."

Read: You'll be lucky if you don't die.

Good Lord, my wife and I were about in tears. I felt awful, because the escort arrived moments later. Here I was, leaving the hospital all fixed, and here he was essantially getting a death sentence.

Life can be unfair.

I got home, and our houseguests were up and about. The kid decided that it would be fun to run right up to me, but I was ready for this. What I was NOT ready for was his afternoon of shrieking tantrums, stomping, and throwing things. He was the worst he's been since he's been here, and it made me a bit cranky.

Wanda picked up my medications shortly thereafter, and the pain ebbed. Throughout the evening, the kid acted up. All the next day as well, while Wanda was at work, he was a veritable hellian. Wanda came home at lunch to check on me (which was kind of her, and a nice surprise.) She found me cleaning up after the kid, as he rampaged and got angry. I had been trying to get my house in order since I woke up that morning, as it was in the worst state of disarray since our guests arrived.

Our guest decided to take her kid outside, and vacuum her car out. The problem was I could hear the shop vac in the house, and the kid had apparently found a high-pitched whistle in the car, because he was blowing on it like he was trying to take down Jherico again.

Throughout the day, the phone kept ringing - not for me, but for her. Individuals were calling her from various organizations to get her set up in their programs, as well as her co-workers calling about work. I didn't mind, but I had to keep getting up and finding her (no small feat in my condition) and eventually felt a staple tearing at my flesh. I had four incisions in all, and sixteen staples closing them. I also had a totally shaved belly, which looked kind of funny.

The incision near my belly-button had six, the larger one near center-mass of my sternum had six also, and then there were two between my ribs on the right-side of my torso spaced about three inches apart. The staple that moved was one of the six on the top incision, and I laid there gasping in pain for a good two minutes before I dared move again.

>SIGH< I'm whiny, I know.

I vacuumed the kitchen and the floors when they finally left for the evening, and I picked up all the rooms, arranging things the way I like once more. I was sort of pissed about this, because I felt like the kid could be handled a little more strictly. I understand that he's having a hard time coping, and is acting out, but I needed to the rest and peace more now than ever.

And that's my story. I felt compelled to write all this down, because within a few days, I won't remember a fraction of this. And it's a pretty signifcant event in my life, all in all.

I do have to say: I liked skydiving better.

(08/24/09 - 8:12 PM)
I'm home alone. Normally, this isn't too strange an event. Twice a month, my wife volunteers her time at her church food pantry, and also assists individuals with finding jobs, constructing resumees, etc. while there as well.

What makes this evening noteworthy, and somewhat unsettling, is that this is the first time in eleven days that I have not been in the company of someone else - be it shrieking 3-year old, my keen wife, our new and formerly mis-treated roomate or other supporting cast members in what is fondly known as my life in general.

It's too damn quiet, and frankly, I'm a little bored. I'm still kicked-in-the-ass sick (and have been since Thursday, for those of you keeping track), and I'm all but sleeping as I type this. I miss my wife, as we have had little to no time alone together. And no, I don't mean 'THAT', but yeah, - 'THAT' too, now that you mention it...

>AHEM< Anyway.

It seems like our former life is nothing more than a distant, fond memory. And I find myself actually beginning to wonder what it was like: I'm forgetting.

And my dreams have gotten far more interesting in the last week. Most likely due to stress, cold medicine, stress, lack of sleep, stress, the shock to my lifestyle, stress, and possibly the pending change in the season. Last night I dreamt that my Boss and I each wished to hold a meeting. I wanted one thing, and had no notion that he wished also to convey something of personal importance to the troops.

Suffice it to say, we were fighting about who would hold their meeting first. Each of us had gathered roughly half the troops in our respective chosen meeting areas... did I mention we were in a giant high school? I really meant to.

Old employees were there, intermingled with the new (which is +2 strange, because this is the second time that long forgotten, short-lived co-workers have wended their way into my personal slumberland in recent memory).

Weird, weird, weird.

(08/23/09 - 5:28 PM)
Back to the fun and exciting land of gardening for me today! I felt that I would be remiss if I didn't persue this opportunity for this young lady, even though she had to work (I'm sending all the money that I earn this weekend to her fund in a show of solidarity). So, essentially, it's like she's working in two places at once. The downside is that this is the only weekend that this work is available, as the Boss and wife will be unavailable to tell us what in the heck they need for the next several weekeneds to come.

So, I'm making the most of it while I can. It's a tough haul, because this cold is still kicking my ass. I'm fevering up every few hours, and I'm finding that working in the hot sun performing tasks very closely akin to labor really take alot out of you. Coupled with a high-strung three-year-old who likes to let everyone know when the sun is up, and you have a recipe for asylum commitment.

(08/22/09 - 9:22 PM)
The young lady who is staying with us and I went to my Boss' home today and worked in one of his wifes' 17 gardens. Each year, they hire individuals they know (younger employees, church members, friends, family, neighbors, etc.) to come and help them with these mammoth yard tasks. For whatever reason, this years crop of helpers was spartan at best. Coupled with the fact that other more pressing matters have exhausted nearly every waking moment of their time, and the weeds and invasive species didn't take too long to take full advantage in the lapse in yard grooming.

So, when I heard that she could make a decent wage doing something outdoorsey, I asked my Boss' wife if she would mind if she and I came out to help, uninvited. She was thrilled for the help, and our houseguest proved to be an incredibly hard and dilligent worker.

We worked a solid afternoon out there, and were both well-exhausted when all was said and done. I think she needed that sort of exhaustion. Sometimes, it's just necessary. And if you don't get that, then I can't explain it.

She got to meet and work with a co-worker's step-daughter who is going through nearly the same thing that she currently is. Her boyfriend assaulted her as well, and she has now moved back home in search of her next life move. It was kind of ironic, and they seeemed to get along well. I extended an invitation to the other young lady to come and see our guest anytime she liked, as she lives - conveniently - right around the corner from us.

All in all, a good day. We got our houseguests' budget in order, broken down by week, month and annum. This showed her where her money was going, how much was coming in, and where we needed to be to get her on her feet.

Word has it that several generous individuals have come through on my personal e-mails and letters with donations to her fund at church (I told you guys that you rocked!) and I let her know of its existance today. We explained that we wanted her to keep as much of it as possible in the account we set up for her, so that she always has the comfort of knowing that she has something to fall back on if need be.

We're still looking for job leads for her, but we're hopeful. We're also in the process of getting her financial strings all tied up so that we can move forward with a clean slate. Mercifully, her two hitches in her credit are miniscule - they'll just take a few days to clear up, and then it should be smooth sailing from there. I also investigated accounts available at a local bank that I'd like her to use, and it all looks promising.

Hopefully, we can jump-start both of their lives, as they lean on one another for moral support. How cool would that be? A two-fer!

(08/21/09 - 9:14 PM)
I took today off. Rather, I had asked for it off some time ago, so technically it was a vacation day. The cold is now in full, category 5, effect, and my misery is abject and complete.

I had finally managed to slip into a semi-comatose state, when my phone rang.

I said my sinusoidal greeting, hoping for it not to be mistaken as an invitation for phone sex, a-la Barry White, and promptly heard a click.

It was a recording. It was a recording brought to me by the good folks at my local counties' Assessors Office. They just wanted to let me know that my 2009-2010 assessment multiplier would now be 1.049% higher than it had been last year. After a little research, I found that what it really means is this:

It will now cost me nearly $3,500.00 per annum for the priviledge of living in my home so long as it remains in the current county. This is nearly a $500.00 per annum increase over the prior assessment multipliers' ultimate fruition, and has left me boggled. I fail to understand how a county who is in the top 5% nationwide in property taxes, during the worst recession since F.D.R. could still hobble around, with unemployment in the largest city in the county topping out at nearly 15% (recorded - this does not include individuals whose unemployment has now run out, mind you) can decide that now would be just a super time to raise already crushing taxes.

I'm angry for myself. I'm angry for those individuals who now pay more in taxes than they do in principal and interest on their loans - anyone with a loan of about $74,000 is currently in this category, although it does vary from case to case. How do I know this? Because I look at real estate often. And a house caught my eye the other day. It was a $74,000.00 home. P&I on a conventional loan, under the longest terms and the best rates, would be about $202.00 per month according to the calculator. But the taxes on this property were nearly $220.00 per month.

What gives?

Okay, so the message let me know that I could dispute this assessment.


Here's the problem at the moment: The reason I (and about 80,000 homeowners like myself) were receiving the phone call, was that the assessments were running late. And the powers that be decided that this was an adequate substitute for written notice. Can they do that?

So, I got online to see what my assessment was for the new term. And IT ISN'T THERE YET. How can I dispute it by the September 14th deadline, if I don't even know what it is, because the Assessor's office is running behind?

Here's my initial 'W.T.F?' moment. But then, it just got better. I read on the counties' web site that I could download a sample of the protest form, but that in order to file a protest, I must go to the office downtown, or send an S.A.S.E. to the office requesting a formal form. No other form would be considered or accepted.

If I do send this request, will it arrive and be turned around in time for me to do anything with it? Because, this leads right into problem numero two: I have to prove, via a Realtor that the assessment is incorrect by showing other properties in my area which are valued where I feel mine ought to be.

But if they're all too high (and they are) then how in the whoosa-fudge am I supposed to do this? Further, why do I need to enlist a professional to disagree with government? Oh, but wait! They'll have some of these guys on hand to assist me on a few certain days, for a set timeframe. But who are they working for, and how long will I have to wait to simply decry an injustice that has been perpetrated upon me without my having sought it out?

I just want to live in my home, and work my job. I don't mind paying taxes - they have a place. But since we've moved here, we've seen our base taxes (prior to exemptions) go from $6,400.00 to nearly $9,000.00. And this is in the span of only 7 years. This is a profound and, frankly, unacceptable increase.

So, I humbly ask: What in the hell is a guy to do?

(08/18/09 - 10:12 PM)
Beef sticks offer up a preposterous amount of flavor. Why don't they make gum that tastes like that?

I'd chew it.

(08/17/09 - 10:26 PM)
Tonight the kid was especially shrieky. He went to bed with his Mom, and about ten minutes later, he started wailing. And I mean bleeding from the ears shrieking.

We figured it was just an especially poignent tantrum, and let it go. At the half-hour mark, we got a little concerned. Wanda went up and stood outside their door, not wanting to intrude, but prepared to call 911 if necessary. She heard his Mom speaking to him in soft tones, and assumed that - yes - it was just another tantrum.

After an hour, it stopped.

We found out a little later that his Mom had taken an aspirin, and had split it. He grabbed the other half, and promptly shoved it up his nose. The problem was that it was one of those caplet-shaped dealies, and he put it in round end first. This meant he had a long, and sharp-ended caplet poking his nasal cavity, and making it nearly impossible to remove without causing further harm due to its initial depth.

Man, kids are dumb. I was smart: I only shoved M&M's up my nose as a kid - and we all know that those eventually melt. =)

This story, good as it is, will never top my brother's now infamous 'Bucky Beaver' story.

Apparently, when my little brother was just a wee little munchkin (and I must have been a mere sprite as well, because I don't rememeber this at all) my brother was given a little stuffed beaver for his birthday. I'll wait for all of your perverted jokes to subside.

All done? Onward, then!

As we all sat in the living room, my father recalls haring a flush from the bathroom. Soon after followed by another, and then the sound of water cascading all over the bathroom from the previous confines of the procelain dam. When my now understandably frantic father arrived in the bathroom, there was my brother reaching for the handle once more.

My father stopped him, and subsequently asked what on Earth he was doing. My brother simply pointed into the toilet. My father could see what appeared to look suspiciously like the hindquarters of one stuffed beaver in the toilet hole, and the room awash in water. My brother spoke simply, as a child often does: "He wanted to go swimming!"

Nick, I don't know whether I'm sad or happy that I can't top your childhood stories. Probably a little of both.

Then, there was the whole 'Pop-Up Pinball' debacle...

(08/16/09 - 11:18 AM)
I'm going to the store today. I'm going to buy something fun and outdoorsey. The whole time the kid has been here, I've wanted to go outside and run around with him, but I don't have anything for us to play with outdoors. I'm hoping to find something fun at the local box store. I feel like the fun Uncle.


I'm back! I got a soccer ball. It's bitchin'; silver and blue like something out of Star Wars. I never knew they came in sizes. When did this happen? Anyway, I got a size three, because it's apparently the smallest and easier for little feet-ses to boff around. I also might have gone a little crazy when I found something called a "V-Smile Motion". It's basically a video game system for 3-year olds. I found several game packs that were from cartoons that up until two days ago I did not even know existed, but that I now know he enjoys watching. I bought him five games, so I hope he likes them.

He's been playing some DVD-based games on Wanda's laptop that had been rescued from the trash by someone who knew his mom. Why do people throw perfectly good things away? They're a little clunky on Wanda's laptop, as she has a pad mouse. And the big computer is tied up at all hours of the day, churning away at the gargantuan tasks that I set it to. So I figured we could set the thing up in the office, where he could play with it to his little hearts' content.

For a guy who hates everyone, I sure am a sucker for kids. Especially when I'm supposed to hate them, too.


(08/15/09 - 10:12 PM)
Went to Mom's today to finish off the deck railing. I got the last piece in place, lag bolted the posts (redundant, because I had already carriage bolted them, but I'll be damned if the thing will break on her), chamfered all the sharp corners and got the cap rails screwed into place in the interim portions. I also shimmed out the handrail: something the lightening and blackness of the thunderstorm I was working in last week prevented me from doing.

I had just finished up, and was talking for a while with my Mom, when I got a call from my close friend Bryan. He lives in Phoenix now, so I don't see him often. It turned out that he was two blocks away from my Mom's house, had called my house whereupon my wife told him where I was, and while I was practically still on the phone with him he pulled right up. Neat!

So, he and my Mom and I sat and talked for about an hour and a half just catching up. It was really nice to see him, and it was also fun to reminisce about geek stuff (we talked about obsolete hard drive brands and their varying levels of quality.) This probably doesn't sound like a good time, but to me it was something that I don't get to do very often so I had fun.

His son is now 17 (I remember when he was about three - the last time I saw him) and he had picked him up from the airport. How weird is that? God, I feel old.

At any rate, he's now purchased a home of his own with his girlfriend of five years (which is nearly a record for him - he better marry this one, or I'll be too old to fly out for his wedding at this rate) who's just a sweetheart, and he's still gainfully employed, which is a good thing in this economy.

Then I came home, cleaned up, and went to the wedding of a long-time friend of ours. I have known her for about 20 years, and I used to work with her former husband in the wood shop that my Boss used to run when I was a boy. Wow, that's a confusing sentence.

I remmeber when her children were born, and now they too are old enough to drive (did I mention that I feel old, I'm pretty sure that I did...)

Her former husband never treated her very nicely, and as the years wore on he got more into porn, alcohol, and being a weiner to both her and her kids, and less into being the father and husband that they deserved.

Eventually, he cheated on her openly, and that was pretty much that.

As she struggled to make it on her own, she met a wonderful man named Alex who is super-hunky, mild mannered, and absolutely perfect for her. I don't know how they found each other, but it's one of those matches that you wish for for both parties involved, because you know that each is such a stellar person they can't help but make one another happy.

They had an intimate ceremony, and were blissfully wed. It wa s agorgeous day for it, and I was disappointed that more of my co-workers (a number of whom are also long-time friends of this woman) didn't show up. Did I mention that she has been with our company for a while? I meant to really hard...

Anyway, we got home and just relaxed. Our houseguests were out for the afternoon, as the young boy had received Magic Waters Waterpark tickets from a library program for summer reading or some such thing, and his mother had promised to take him. I think this was probably a fun time for both of them, and a nice way to spend a gorgeous afternoon forgetting about the bad things that had befallen them of late.

When they got home, his shrieking and noisiness grated on my nerves a little less than the day before, and I think I'm finally getting used to having them around. It's still painfully disruptive, but it's nothing that we cannot handle.

Still, we did appreciate the quiet a whole lot more. And tomorrow night will be interesting, as his Mom has to work until nine, and Wanda wants to watch him. We'll see how he does without her for all those hours, but I'm not optimistic.

(08/12/09 - 11:06 PM)
We have a houseguest. Two, to be precise.

My wife called me at work today, informing me that she had received a phone call from one of her friends at church. Apparently, her husband has elected to partake in adult beverages more and more of late. The biggest problem is that, when he does so, he becomes very mean.

On the evening prior, he had done just this, and decided that it would be just a super idea to take it out on this poor, 24-year old, docile young lady.

Police were summoned (not be her, even) and he was carted off to the pokey for a stay at the Grey Bar Inn. Then comes the kicker.

Her mother in-law decides that since her precious, precious little boy is in prison due to his actions against this young woman, that she will elect to evict the young woman from the apartment that she and the young man shared. For, you see, she happens to own the building.

It was explained to me later that the mother treats her son more as a drinking buddy than a son, so on a lot of levels this begins to make sense. I've only encountered this phenomena in person once before, and it's extremely odd to the outside observer to say the least.

So, instead of doing anything even remotely sensible, she tells the young woman - who has already been victimized, and has the marks all over her to show it - that she is to get her things, and get out. Now.

Now, I realize that this is probably raising a whole slew of questions in the minds of a great many of you who understand the law, but the bottom line was that it was in her best interests to leave at that point.

Now comes the tricky part: She has no family in the area, and she has a steady job where she has just been promoted to assistant manager right in her neighborhood. She needs to keep the job, because it's the only one she has. And, even though it's part-time, her promotion puts her beneath only the owner who more and more wishes to be absent from the business as she grows older. Ergo, she is not getting more hours, but not enough to support herself and her son.

So, she calls my wife, because it's the only number she has on hand for the churchy-folk, and asks for help from the Pastor (who also happens to be Wanda's brother.)

Wanda does the math in her head, and she comes up with a solution. If she can stay with us, her husband won't know where she is for a while and perhaps that sense of safety will provide her with the final impetus to get out of a progressively deteriorating relationship.

Wanda begins calling all of her connections within the public assistance field that she has garnered and built up over her recent year of assisting individuals with job searches, resumee writing, interview practice, and work clothing, and puts out an A.P.B. to get this poor young lady the help she so desperately needs.

In the meantime, we both agreed that the right thing to do was to invite her into our home for the time being, and to assist her with getting a bank account setup for herself (her husband handled all the money, and she doesn't have one) and to help her get a full-time job that will pay the bills for her when she is out on her own.

So, we now have houseguests. She's as quiet and unobtrusive as a gnat. Her three-year old son, on the other hand, is as quiet and unobtrusive as a rampaging elephant on a case of Red Bull.

One out of two ain't bad.

If you'd like to help them as well, you may send a tax-deductable contribution to:

Soul's Harbor Church
c/o Rosie's Fund
2802 11th Street
Rockford, IL     61109

Anything you can send - be it five dollars or more - will help this young lady obtain housing and regain her independance. Whatever you do, DON'T procrastinate. If you're like me, you'll want to do something, and then promptly forget all about it as soon as something shiny or colorful crosses your line of peripheral vision.

OoOoOoOoO... a colorful shiny bird!... I, uh... I gotta go...

(08/10/09 - 11:13 PM)
I finally got to mow my lawn today! Okay, so it's only exciting to me, and my life is uninteresting at best. But it looks good now!

After all the spotty rain that we've had in the past few days, coupled with my busier than normal schedule, it's been near impossible to find the time to get it done.

(08/09/09 - 8:49 PM)
I just woke up from a three-hour crash nap. But let me take a step back...

This morning, I awoke rather early, and for some reason, I had a burning desire to just get up, get to Mom's, and show that deck who was boss.

So, after dragging my sorry but from my bed, I did just that.

I arrived at 8:45 and began tackling the railings and posts.

After a half hour of struggling, I finally got the posts down to a science, and moved along from there.

Some seven and one half hours later, my old friend precipitation came a knockin', but I was once more dauntless in my perseverance. I was too close to being done to quit just because of a little rain.

A lot of rain? Nope, not even then.

Near blackness and then lightning all around? Well, even I have my limits. I finished everything I could without getting fancy (live to fight another day!) and hauled hiney into the sanctity of my Mom's condominium.

After showering the wood chips, dirt, mulch, sweat, and various insect life from my now haggard form, I came home. I promptly attempted to relax for twenty minutes before it became abundantly clear that I was taking a nap whether I wished to or not.

Still, Mom now has a deck complete with stairs, a keen railing, and a handrail even. Now, I just need to add that one final board that I somehow overlooked in my measurements...

(08/08/09 - 10:13 PM)
Today was Company Picnic, 2009 for my company.

It was a bit awkward this year, as this is the first year the company hasn't felt whole. With all the layoffs, the slump in work, and the lack of funds to allow my Boss to really let the good times roll, it ended up being a rather intimate-feeling affair with the core group of employees.

And somehow, this was a change that didn't seem to bother me. It was nice to have enough people to be able to hold one, very large conversation rather than segments of smaller ones. Somehow, it felt more familial and perhaps that was precisely what we all needed.

Also, this was the first year that we all brought a dish to pass. And, again, it seemed to be a change for the better. Here were each of the employees pitching in something of themselves for the benefit of the group, and I for one think it was something that we ought to adopt in future regardless of economic climate. It brings a sort of intimacy (don't get all peverted on me now) when individuals can comment on the hard work of others for their benefit. I truly think it was somehow meaningful and important.

I have no idea what the future holds: For me, for my industry, or for my company. But that one small event made me realize how important we all are to one another, even if we don't believe it to be so.

(08/07/09 - 11:06 PM)
I took today off work to work on Mom's deck. I was all psyched up. I knew what I was going to do. I knew the order of jobs, and how I wanted to tackle things.

I got down there, and the sky looked none too friendly, but I figured I was committed to the task at hand, so I forged ahead. I unloaded my car of enough tools to start a small island colony.

No sooner - honest to God - had I unloaded the last tool did it start to rain.

So, okay. I was going to do some more belt sanding, but with the advent of the rain this was clearly out.

Alternate idea #2 - AKA: Plan B!

I would get the posts and rails in place! I began to gear up for this alternate project. But the cloud goddess, being ripe with rain babies, had other plans. The clouds grew thicker than a 1940's malted milkshake, and the rain came down harder.

So, now I had two choices: I could do what I could, while getting soaked or I could go back home.

While not a normal guy, I do have my moments. And there was no way in hell that I was giving up now.

I elected to build and mount the stairs. This was to be one of my final projects, but it was the only one that I could do in the rain because belt sanders and rain don't mix on about a hundred different levels, and I would be damned if I was going to get on my knees and back to carriage bolt the rail posts onto the deck in this mess.

So, the stairs it was. I toiled in a progressively steady downpour for nearly three and one-half hours, but in the end I had one inspiringly sturdy set of stairs. I jumped on them and they practically scoffed, 'Is that all you got, pretty boy?'

Now, I was soaked through twice over, and I needed to either get out of my wet clothes or begin inviting fish and, in turn, icthyologists into them to appropriately fill them.

I settled on the prior, but don't think for a minute that the thought of fish and their studiers in my pants didn't seem at the very least remotely appealing.

So, I went in and changed. I attempted to find a towel, but after looking in all the 'sensible' and 'normal' places gave up. I was later informed that she keeps them in the dresser in the spare bedroom.

Of course! Who doesn't? Why in the world didn't I think to look there?

I was dry, and now I had another fork in the road to traverse. I could leave now, having gotten at least one facet of the larger project completed, or I could seek out something else to do that did not involve me, rain, fish, and ostensible perversion.

In a stroke of insight, I elected to work on pre-fabricating the posts for later installation. I had initially intended to cut them to size, and then take them in to work to cut them up on any number of the fancy-pants machines we have there for cutting metal and that would, therefore, scoff at the simplicity of wood.

In that shining moment, however, I came up with a great way to achieve the same end without removing the posts from Mom's property. I figured out a way to fixture the posts on my miter saw, and history was made.

So, I got that done, and called it a day. I haven't been so miserable and wet in a long time (not since Jacques Cousteau hit on me while diving in the 70's.)

But hey - at least I didn't give up.

(08/06/09 - 11:04 PM)
In recent years, I have noticed an alarming trend in both women and men, but moreso in women of late. It appears it is now not only the fashion to get oneself a tattoo, but to get one on ones' neck with the name of a beloved dude who means more to you than cubic zirconia or Hooked On Springer! Fights Volume 12.

I have seen such elegant names as 'Clay', 'Ed', 'Jamal', and some that I can't even pronounce.

I have one question. Okay, two actually: Why in the hell would you want a tattoo on your neck in the first place? Moreover, why in the hell would you want one of your dude-du-jour's name, when tomorrow you might very well find out that he ain't your babies' daddy, or that he's been knocking boots with the gal next trailer over.

Seriously, how stupid is this?

I see this woman who is not in the least unattractive, and who looks halfway intelligent. She has three kids in tow and at first glance looks like your average soccer-mom type. Then I see something on her neck. I think to myself, no, it couldn't be.

But it is. It's a name. It's a name in 1" high letters in dark blue ink right over her carotid. It says, in all its scrolly glory: Ed.

Now, I have to ask myself: How studly, awesome, hunky, forthright, and all-around amazing is old Ed? How could he possibly have persuaded this woman to have his name tattooed on her neck in perpetuity?

I wanted to date Ed at this point, because he must be a man among men.

But, somehow, I doubt it.

(08/03/09 - 11:12 PM)
Todays installment of 'Heath Tries To Be Funny!' goes thus-wise:

Q: What kind of car would Jesus drive if he came back to Earth today?
A: A Christler

Next! ...

A young man accompanied his friend back home during the holidays away from college.

Dinner was served one evening, and the family - extended and all - sat down to sup together.

"Oh! Isn't this just spendid! I can't wait to try the turkey!"

The rest of the family just nodded, ignoring the matronly woman who had made the statement. When no one responded further than this, she spoke again.

"Isn't this lovely. I just can't wait to talk to cousin Sally about what a wonderful meal this was, I really can't!"

She went on and on like this all evening, as the family continued to ignore her.

The young man's friend asked him later, in the privacy of the family room:

"So, what was up with that lady at dinner? She kept talking about how she couldn't wait for things while everyone seemed to ignore her. What was up with that?"

"Oh," came the young mans reply, "that's my Aunt Ticipation. She's always like that."

Until next time!

(08/02/09 - 11:04 AM)
Spent the last week converting our DVD collection to iPod format, so we can watch them on the fly. It was a huge undertaking, but we re-discovered our DVD collection. So, I guess that's a good thing.

I finally finished this morning, and now I'm on to the far larger task of converting all of our television shows - some 150 seasons of various things - into portable formats.

I might be done by Christmas, if I'm lucky...

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